Condensed from the South African Pioneer
In the opening words of John's gospel we have this great spiritual truth stated. In John's preaching, in Andrew's call to Peter, in Philip's testimony to Nathanael, the joy of the new-found Messiah at once manifests itself in confession and invitation. Where Christ as the Life has entered the heart, He will as the Light ever shine out into the surrounding darkness. We shall be best prepared to take in the full application of this truth to our modern Christian life if we gather up the lessons the story teaches as to Christ and the life which He gives.
What is Salvation?
It is coming to Christ. John points to Christ. When His disciples follow Christ He calls them to make a personal. acquaintance. With Andrew and Peter and Philip and Nathanael it is all one thing—they come to Jesus, they find Him, they learn to know and receive Him as their Saviour. This is salvation. It is not, as many think, depending upon a certain work Christ has done, or believing certain truths He has revealed, or doing certain things He has commanded. These all have their value, and are most needful. But salvation itself, its true root and its real power, consists in coming to Christ and getting into personal relation with Him. “This is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son; he that hath the Son hath life.” Faith means not merely a confidence in certain promises God has made, or the acceptance of a certain gift Christ can bestow; but an opening of the heart to Him, and a receiving of Himself as its Life.
This truth needs to be studied and pressed home. True religion is a close personal friendship with the Lord Jesus. Prayer is not only a means of obtaining certain gifts from Christ, but the joy of holding personal intercourse with Him. Obedience is not the performance of certain duties, but the living acceptance and carrying out of His will—of following Him as Leader and Lord. Through all its duties religion has its secret in the joy and strength which love alone can give. Let us from the very commencement of the gospel get firm hold of the truth that, though He is now in heaven, a personal friendship and intercourse, as real as between Him and His disciples on earth, is the only religion in which there will be power to serve and please and witness for Him. This alone is the Life that will be able to shine out with its Divine Light.
John twice proclaims Him to be the Lamb of God, and that name He has carried to the throne and bears through all eternity. It has a double meaning. It speaks of the work He has done in giving His blood as a sacrifice for our sins; as the price of our redemption; as the fountain for our cleansing; as the nourishment of our soul. There is no mystery in Scripture more deep than this: we are bought, we are redeemed with the blood of the Lamb of God. There can be no name more precious than the name the Lamb of God. The Christ to whom we must come is He whose blood is the measure of His love, of His right to us, of our cleansing, and of our life through Him. Let us trust and follow, let us preach and honor the Lamb of God in His atonement and redemption, as He brings us to God and gives us living access to and experience of all His love and favor. And let us say to Him without ceasing, in love and adoration, “Thou art worthy, for Thou hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood."
But the Lamb not only signifies the work, but equally the nature of Christ. As the Lamb of God, He is the meek and lowly One. In His deep humility and dependence upon God, in His utter self-abnegation before God, in His taking the form of a servant among men, He showed what the disposition is that becomes a creature toward his Creator. He taught us, what we never could have conceived, that humility is our highest glory, because it glorifies God; and our only blessedness, because it frees us from that self which is our only misery. Oh, let us follow the Lamb of God as the meek and lowly One, until we experience that the highest salvation for which He redeemed us, or which He can bestow on us, is His own meek and gentle nature. What a change would come over the world and the church if this were truly preached and practised. He that truly comes to the meek and lowly Lamb of God and follows Him will become meek and lowly like Him.
It is intensely interesting to notice the different ways in which men are led. Andrew and his companion are guided to Christ by the preaching of John. Peter is brought by his brother Andrew. Philip is called by Christ directly, and Nathanael by Philip. What a means of grace preaching has been in all ages! What millions it has brought to Christ, and yet what millions it leaves unhelped and untouched. The preaching of John the Baptist teaches us that the blessing depends not only on what we preach, but how we preach. John was filled with the Spirit from his birth. John had direct communication with heaven teaching him the mystery of the Christ. John had learned the mystery of the Christ, as the recipient and the dispenser of the Holy Ghost. No wonder his preaching was in power. The church need beware of nothing more earnestly than the danger of preaching without the power to bring men to Christ. The gospel preached “with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven” will bear this blessed fruit.
What a means of grace personal witness-bearing has been! Its living testimony “I have found,” its loving offer “Come and see,” is a ministry of reconciliation within reach of every Christian. Where the preaching is not supported by witness-bearing it will soon lose its power. The true preacher knows its value and seeks to call it forth. As long as the winning of souls is considered to be the work of one man, he and the believers to whom he ministers must suffer loss. They are kept from that spiritual exercise and activity which is essential to a healthy life. He is robbed of the support which their witness and their prayer could give. The unconverted and the anxious lose the most effective argument for the truth of what is preached—the proof that those with whom they live could give that Jesus has met and is saving them.
Personal Fellowship With Christ Brings Light to Surroundings
4. This brings us to what we said at the commencement. It appears to be the great lesson the church of our time needs to learn. When Christ as the Life has entered the heart He must and will as the Light shine out into the surrounding darkness. In this story we see how the Divine Life is, above all, a personal thing. The one object of the teaching of John and the following of Christ by the disciples, as of Christ's invitation and their testimony to others, was to lead to personal fellowship with the Lord Jesus. The Life is in a Person, and can only be known and received by close and continued contact with Him. Even so, the one power of the Christian life is manifestly seen to come from this personal intercourse. It was the disciples' stay with Him that night, it was Peter's coming to Him and hearing what He said to him, it was Philip's listening to His call and Nathanael's listening to His teaching that made them what they became. And it was no less this personal intercourse that made them such effective witnesses for Him. John the Baptist and Andrew and Philip and Nathanael all prove that it was the conviction that His presence had wrought that made it a joy to acknowledge and proclaim Him as Lord. Why is it that in our days the great majority of Christians are so unfaithful to their call to be Christ's witnesses, and so impotent in presence of the millions of perishing nominal Christians and heathen? Why, but that religion has become a selfish thing, a trusting in Christ for a future salvation, without anything of real present love and fellowship and joy in Him? Why, but that the great truth of Christ dwelling in the heart, Christ possessing the whole heart, with all its powers as its exceeding joy and only love, is to so many a mystery that is hidden and unsought? No wonder that, with all our agencies, the great masses—a majority in our large Christian cities—remain alienated from Christ, and so little relatively is done for the larger half of our humanity sunk in heathenism.
We must return to the primitive method. We must see that where the Life is working in power through direct, joyous contact with Jesus, there the Light will shine out brightly and in power. And the church must preach in power of the Holy Ghost that every believer is meant and fitted for and will find his blessedness in being, before everything else, a witness for Jesus. God has in these last few years been giving wonderful blessing and power in the Student Volunteer Movement. The secret of that blessing and power has lain in its appeal to every Christian to give himself, unless absolutely prevented by God, to go to the heathen and help fulfill the last great command.
The basis and the strength of that appeal was the truth that it is the absolute duty of every redeemed sinner to live and work for Him who purchased him with His blood.
That movement is only the beginning of a greater one. What the church needs is the preaching of a call for volunteers for home service. It must be a call for volunteers, not in the sense of leaving it free to Christians whether they will or will not give themselves to witness and work for Jesus? No, but in the very different sense of telling them that they are under the most solemn obligation to give themselves to it; that God asks no forced service, and therefore leaves them the terrible alternative of refusing Him; that He beseeches them to accept this as their highest privilege and the only proof of their love. What a change will come when repentance and pardon and Christ's love in the power of the Holy Ghost are preached with this as their aim and issue: a share and a partnership with Christ in His work of loving and saving men!
Why is it that this is so little seen and heard? Alas! the life is feeble. “The Life is the Light.” As the possession of, as the being possessed of a divine life in Christ, is preached and experienced, the life will shine out, and every believer will be a light, out of whom there shines brightly and joyously the name and the love of Jesus.
What blessed suggestions our lesson brings to all ministers, all Sunday-school teachers, and all workers of every name! Remember that the personal joy of having met Jesus is what alone can inspire your teaching with the power of a divine conviction. Believe that your gracious Lord delights to give you this day by day. His “Come and see" is a standing invitation. Be sure that such intercourse, in which your own need and that of those entrusted to you is all talked over with Him and put into His hands, will reach some hearts, and that you will have the joy of bringing them to Jesus. His “Come and see!" accepted and enjoyed will give your “Come and see!" its power. Through you Jesus Himself will do His work of saving the lost, of guiding the seeking and strengthening the feeble. “The Life is the Light.” Let the Life in you be strong and true, and the Light will shine out clear and bright. In Him is Life, and the Life is the Light of men.—Andrew Murray, Northfield Echoes, (East Northfield: MA, 1899), Vol. 6, 1899, 37